I recently went to Japan to experience and document kyudo, the ancient art of Japanese archery. It literally means “The Way of the Bow” and is considered by many to be the purest of all the martial arts. Originally a samurai discipline and heavily influence by Shintoism and Zen, kyudo integrates technical skill with the development of a completely focused and disciplined mind.
I met Kazuhisa Miyasaka Sensei in Yamanouchi town, where he manages his own ryokan — a traditional Japanese inn — and teaches the art of the bow. During the course of three hours, he explained the history behind kyudo and its tools: “Thousands of repetitions, and out of one’s true self perfection emerges.” It takes a minimum of 30 years to master the grip of the bow. Despite this, he allowed me to shoot a target from about a meter away. “The outdoor target is for samurai only,” he told me with a smile.
Back in Australia, I couldn’t stop thinking about my kyudo experience and started a personal quest to study this dynamic expression of the Japanese spirit. There are no kyudo schools down-under, nor are there many archers who have ventured in this direction, but I found Samantha Chan on Facebook and invited her to be the subject of a photo essay. With the collaboration of the Sydney University Archery Club, we organised the photo shoot on the grounds of St Paul’s Oval, Sydney University. Samantha lived in Japan and practiced the way of the bow for about a year with the Kagoshima University Kyudo Club.